Look Back/Look Ahead: GWS Giants

Welcome to Look Back/Look Ahead, a series where every team is analysed in-depth, and their temperature taken. The plan here is to figure out where a team is at with their on-field style and overall list health before transitioning to their most pressing issue, and whether they can solve it over the off-season.

This series started by saying West Coast’s 2022 was a lost season.

If that’s the case, then the Giants’ 2022 was a wasted season.

Never settled and with an early coaching change, by the end they were in a state of flux from week to week.

Now it’s time for the next phase in their history; one that will see them with a markedly different playing style to what we’ve been accustomed to.

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Look Back/Look Ahead will run during the weeks of September, taking us right up to Grand Final day and finishing with the top two shortly after.

$10 Patrons will have exclusive access to these posts for the first 24 hours after publishing and they’ll be free for all after that. The schedule for non-finalists (not including North Melbourne):

West CoastReadGWSTodayEssendonRead
AdelaideReadHawthornReadGold CoastRead
Port AdelaideReadSt KildaReadCarltonSep 13

Here are all the Patreon details and how to sign up.

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A season quickly summarised

We can split this into three parts: Leon Cameron’s stint, the initial uptick under Mark McVeigh, and the last eight weeks of mad scientist experimentation mode.

Up until the last eight weeks, things were broadly in line with expectations. Cameron’s defensive over-correction continued to the point scoring from turnovers was near impossible, and his time as coach came to its natural conclusion.

McVeigh course corrected over his first five matches, matching the Giants of previous years – strong from stoppages, and free flowing ball movement off the back of that.

Then in the last eight weeks it felt like any idea was a good idea and as a result the finish was disjointed, to say the least.

When a team goes into that mode, the first thing to suffer is set plays. Set plays = stoppages, and the Giants were inept at scoring from that method. Historically bad. For context:

Round 16-23Points per 100 stoppage winsAFL rank
GWS38.318th
Adelaide63.717th
Collingwood72.216th
Western Bulldogs72.615th
Gold Coast75.114th

And ultimately, all the above is wiped away with the arrival of Adam Kingsley and a clean slate.

With the way GWS have set up their list strategy, they’ve never been a side on the older end of the scale. As the above shows, that was again the case in 2022.

They were a distance away from the most experienced teams, from an age perspective well positioned with a balanced split.

Which is all well and good – until upcoming list moves are considered.

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Posts are coming thick and fast at the moment. If you’ve missed anything over the last week or so, here are links to catch up:

Tuesday 30th: Look Back/Ahead: West Coast (17th, 2-20, 59.8%)
Friday 26th: North Melbourne’s end of season list analysis
Thursday 25th: 2022 Finals Dossier: Collingwood (4th, 16-6, 104.3%)
Wednesday 24th: 2022 Finals Dossier: Sydney (3rd, 16-6, 127.9%)
Tuesday 23rd: 2022 Finals Dossier: Melbourne (2nd, 16-6, 130.5%)
Monday 22nd: 2022 Finals Dossier: Geelong (1st, 18-4, 144.2%)

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If no image appears here, head to the List Management page for the most up-to-date graphic
If no image appears here, head to the List Management page for the most up-to-date graphic

Along with the player minutes, the list demographic and contract status graphics work hand in hand.

Reports suggest that Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto, Bobby Hill and Tanner Bruhn are on the way out. If we’re to believe those, it means at least three planned best-22 players depart in one fell swoop.

The 2023 team is now without a 21, 23, 25 and 26-year-old in what is suggested to be a ‘salary cap reset’ (again, normal disclaimer about how much stock to place in reports).

Assuming all four depart, the Giants’ return will probably decide whether they exceed external 2023 expectations. Even without them it’s still not a six-win list in a normal season.

With Josh Kelly, Lachie Whitfield, Stephen Coniglio, Connor Idun, Sam Taylor and Brent Daniels all proven AFL performers and locked away for at least the next three years, there are key parts in every area of the field locked away.

Isaac Cumming, Toby Greene, Nick Haynes, Jesse Hogan and Harry Perryman are contracted until 2024. Add those five to the above six and – fitness permitting – that’s half of a quality best 22 locked and loaded.

Working on the assumption this is indeed a salary cap reset, the logical reaction from the Giants is to ask for picks in return. Currently with three picks inside 40, adding another couple (at least) to that leaves them room to get funky.

There’s the option to move up and end with two or three picks inside the top 15, or go for a quantity approach. Then if there’s a successful haul of three to four selections, by the time those players are ready for significant raises there’ll only be Coniglio, Whitfield and Kelly’s long-term money on the books.

Fascinating times ahead.

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As we head towards free agency and trade period, a reminder that the plan is to have a post for every move that involves a player:

For first access, head to Patreon to sign up.

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What should be Adam Kingsley’s first priority?

The quote that stood out to me from Kingsley’s introductory press conference was this:

“The broad philosophy would be differentiating the game into, say, stoppage or turnover, and where should your focus lie and what should it look like on both phases of the game.

“That’s what typically the best clubs have done over a long period of time now, not just recently. That’ll certainly be a focus for us.”

Earlier I mentioned how the Giants’ M.O over previous years has been stoppage work. Creating – and scoring from – turnovers was a distant second priority at times, and arguably was the one phase of the game holding them back from further honours.

If Kingsley’s background is any indication, it’s about to change quickly.

The Richmond game is all about turnover, as it should be in the current landscape. When it’s on it can cover up all sorts of flaws while highlighting every one of your strengths.

As a hypothetical example, if Himmelberg continues down back the Giants are light on for key forward options. But if there’s an army buzzing around creating forward half turnovers, the sheer quantity of scoring chances wins out in the end.

Even if the Giants lose a quartet of important players and draft their replacements, it’s this setup and structural change which will be Kingsley’s first priority.

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